Without question, most ERPs have a long life span—or at least longer than anyone thought possible. So, it’s not unusual to come across a business that has a system that is 10 to 20 years old or even dating back to the 1990s. But after years of upgrades, customizations, and add-ons, that “reliable” technology foundation is becoming a stumbling block for business transformation.

Hubert Delloye, a global ERP architect at Vallourec, summed this up fittingly during the ASUG Express webcast, How to Turbocharge Your ECC in 6 Weeks:

Anyone who is an SAP customer understands the need to leverage ERPs as much as possible. But at the same time, it must be recognized that these software investments are really a system of record, not tools for predictive analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence. And ultimately, this means that certain new innovations should not be added to the ERP.

However, SAP customers have been forced to customize their SAP ERP system over the years to accommodate new integrations, processes, applications, and key performance indicators. In return, a large amount of institutional knowledge, processes, and business logic has been added to the system. This outcome has left their SAP core unclean, increasing their technical debt and making future digital transformation complicated and risky.

What happens next? SAP advises its customers to migrate their legacy system to SAP S/4HANA. However, a 2021 ASUG survey found that only 33% of SAP customers have migrated to the modern and intelligent ERP. For the remaining 67%, the cost and effort to reassess data repositories, advance data management, recreate processes from scratch, reconnect core and edge technologies, and adjust how people work are too much to bear right now. This process comes with a certain amount of risk and potential disruption, and often continues for an extended time frame.

Technical Debt and Legacy Apps: Holding the Business Back

As the marketplace continues to digitally transform and favor cloud adoption, companies demand customized web and mobile applications to modernize their business processes. Doing so can help them increase workplace productivity, lower operating costs, improve quality data, and respond to market dynamics with greater agility.

To accomplish this goal, developers are focused on learning programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, Java, and visual development tools. But existing technical debt created over the years requires ABAP developers—on which many SAP solutions are based—to maintain, change, and build new processes. Yet, according to SlashData, the amount of ABAP developers available in the market is tiny compared to any other prevalent programming language, creating a major shortage of resources for SAP-centric enterprises.

Wanted: A Friendlier Approach to Modernization

Despite a shrinking pool of developers with the skills required to support SAP-based systems, businesses recognize they must still evolve their digital landscapes and adapt to changing customer demands, regulatory requirements, and strategic direction. This mindset is driving demand for low-code, rapid application development solutions that can accommodate innovation and modernization without the need for advanced integration skills.

Low-code/no-code solutions empower existing developers to utilize their experience and knowledge of the organization while quickly building new business capabilities around existing SAP applications on their own schedules. More importantly, the technology does not require a full migration to SAP S/4HANA or additional training on programming languages.

Pillir’s team of technology and business experts observe this phenomenon regularly, especially when SAP customers are looking to migrate their legacy ABAP code with its rapid application development platform EdgeReady Cloud. Modernizing an SAP landscape and maintaining legacy investment call for a solution helps build new application and maintain legacy business logic and processes while enhancing and digitizing processes. A platform that converts legacy applications automatically to mobile-ready, cloud-based applications is the answer.

Where ERP Innovation Becomes Business Transformation

Businesses that are looking into development platforms to modernize their SAP system need to consider technologies that fulfill five fundamental requirements:

  • Combine business process management, low code, and no code in one visual experience that brings various stakeholders together to fast-track the creation of new business capabilities.
  • Base the developer experience on building visual models of your application, rather than writing lines of code.
  • Enhance the refactoring of legacy applications with deeper, native integration with the ERP, which hastens the modernization process by extracting the legacy ABAP custom code and converting it directly into low-code objects.
  • Enable business-led IT with a combination of speed, flexibility, control, monitoring, and governance to expand new business capabilities.
  • Deliver progressive web apps (PWA) and hybrid and native applications on all consumer and rugged devices—online and offline—enabled by one simple browser-based development experience.

Low-code/no-code solutions, such as Pillir’s EdgeReady Cloud, addresses these needs and the process of modernizing existing digital investments regardless of their stage in the SAP migration journey. The technology helps create a more efficient hosted environment with a low learning curve for users, accelerating adoption of these newly modernized applications. These solutions also offer the ability to “clean up” the SAP core, simplifying any future migrations as the core is more standardized.

From Vision to Reality Through Incremental Change

The pressure to modernize and optimize the value of every process is increasingly high as businesses navigate their way through a highly dynamic and competitive marketplace—and legacy ERP is certainly no exception.

Businesses must modernize and alleviate their “technical debt” by streamlining their processes and creating efficiencies, if they hope to remain viable in a world that continues to digitally transform. Yet, this may present a dilemma for companies that are under pressure to meet budgetary concerns and avoid costly disruption and downtime, especially in a post-pandemic economy.

Cleaning up that digital technical debt does not have to be a wholesale move to an entirely new environment, especially if a business is not ready for it. Instead, with the right tools, employees can shape the future of the company’s digital landscape by developing capabilities on their own pace, according to their most pressing priorities. Then bit by bit, department by department, application by application, organizations can modernize their ERP landscape according to whatever strategy and timeline best suits their business models.

Be sure to tune into the next ASUG Express virtual event, Explore How SAP Business Technology Platform Simplifies Your SAP S/4HANA Transformation Journey, on July 20 at 9 a.m. ET. Register here.

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